BHP blasts towards wireless mining with Orica tech

BHP's latest blast was the world's largest using wireless technology. Image: BHP.

BHP Mitsui Coal has taken the title of completing the world’s largest wireless blast at the Poitrel coal mine using Orica WebGen technology.

The company’s third trial blast with the technology at the Queensland mine saw 1.3 million cubic metres of overburden shifted in a strata blast, fired with 1920 WebGen 100 units across 534 holes.

Orica’s WebGen technology is the world’s first wireless initiating system and eliminates the need for down wires and surface connecting wires, making it the safest commercial explosive product in the world.

WebGen technology uses low-frequency magnetic waves to communicate with its wireless in-hole primers, initiated by a firing command that communicates through rock, water and air.

Poitrel mine production manager Jayson Smeeton noted the significant safety improvements made using WebGen technology, as well as an improvement in efficiency.

“Wireless blasting means we are able to really reduce our people’s exposure to dust in the pit and eliminates the potential for misfires because they do not need to physically tie each hole in to the blast pattern,” Smeeton said.

“Eliminating the need to tie in each hole also makes the process for loading explosives far more efficient and less susceptible to wet weather delays, as the pit does not need to be shut down because of the potential risk of accidental ignition during thunderstorms.”

BHP began trialling WebGen in May and June this year, starting with small shots to test the technology.

The most recent trial was a more complicated strata blast, firing the top and bottom decks of the shot at different times, maximising fragmentation while preserving the coal below.

Further production blasts, including through-seam blasts are scheduled for the next year.

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